The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan recently ordered civilians to leave South Waziristan and threatened to target members of nongovernmental organizations, contractors, and truck drivers operating in the area.
The warning came in the form of pamphlets that were distributed on June 11 in the Mehsud tribal areas of South Waziristan. The pamphlet was obtained and translated by The Express Tribune.
“All the people are warned and appealed that they should vacate the South Waziristan area as there is a war going on here,” read the statement, which was signed by the “Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, South Waziristan Agency.”
“We have not permitted any NGO or any contractor of any NGO nor we ever allow such people; they all are our targets,” the statement continued. “All the employees associated with education and health and NGOs and the khasadar force will be treated as criminals,” while those involved in transportation are “committing unpardonable crime.”
The Taliban also said that a “general amnesty” will be given for civilians who leave the tribal agency, while “those who have sent Mehsud people to live in Waziristan, and those who invite them and who help them and assist them” will be treated as criminals. The Taliban often dispense the harshest form of sharia, or Islamic law, for those who oppose their rule. Punishments usually consist of beheadings.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s South Waziristan branch, which is led by Waliur Rahman Mehsud, has kept up the fight against the Pakistani military. In the fall of 2009, the military launched an operation to defeat the group, and in mid-November of that year claimed to have defeated the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in South Waziristan. But the Taliban group withdrew the bulk of its forces from the Mehsud tribal areas and relocated to neighboring tribal areas, maintaining a rearguard to fight the Pakistani military.
Maulvi Azmatullah, the Taliban military commander who is number five on the Pakistani military’s list of 20 most-wanted Taliban leaders in South Waziristan, has been conducting operations in South Waziristan. In September 2011, he battled Pakistani troops to control the remains of a US drone downed in the Ladha area.
Asmatullah Shaheen, the Taliban’s military commander in the towns of Jandola and Tank who is better known as Asmatullah Bhittani, has also been operating in the area. In December 2011, Shaheen overran a Frontier Corps fort in the settled district of Tank. The Pakistani military claimed Shaheen was killed in early December while fighting in the Sararogha area of South Waziristan, but the report was false.
The Taliban’s top leadership in South Waziristan still remains intact. Since the Pakistani military released the most-wanted list in the fall of 2009, only one Taliban leader on the list has been killed and one other has been captured.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan remains a close ally of al Qaeda and shelters the terror group’s top leaders.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.